Protests have broken out in Thailand, with people demonstrating against the country’s government and monarchy. Over 10,000 people gathered in the capital of Bangkok in early August, in what is the biggest political demonstration in Thailand since a 2014 coup when the military seized power. The protests were prompted by student-led activism which has grown to encompass people from all walks of Thai society. Protesters are demanding economic reform, civilian control of government, and reduced power for Thailand’s monarchy. Student-led demonstrations had been occurring daily for the better part of a month before the movement evolved to incorporate Thai citizens across all age groups and demographics. Protesters have grown increasingly vocal in their demand to reform Thailand’s monarchy, which was considered a radical idea until very recently. Under Thailand’s strict lese-majeste laws, criticizing members of the royal family can carry a jail sentence of up to 15 years. Despite this, criticism of the Thai monarch has been amplified by a bold, young, Thai generation who are insistent on greater democratic freedoms in their country.
In Thailand’s last elections, incumbent prime minister, and former general and orchestrator of the 2014 military coup, Prayuth Chan-ocha, won power. However, the desire for a civilian prime minister has permeated Thai society, which would also like to see the constitution rewritten by civilian authorities to replace the current constitution which was authored by the military. Protesters have also demanded greater protection for human rights, as critics of the monarchy and military have disappeared and been killed by the authorities. Prior to and during the protests, the Thai security apparatus has implemented tactics of intimidation to silence the leaders of the demonstration. This includes students, members of the political opposition, journalists, and others. Longtime observers have classified the protests as a crucial moment for Thailand. Widespread demonstrations such as those occurring now are unheard of in Thailand, and the reaction by the authorities to the protests will shape Thai politics moving forward.